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Hips Feel Good Dove Campaign For Real Beauty Case Study

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Dove Campaign for Real Beauty Case Study

By: Melinda Brodbeck and Erin Evans
Presented March 5, 2007


The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (CFRB) began in England in 2004 when Dove’s sales declined as a result of being lost in a crowded market. Unilever, Dove’s parent company, went to Edelman, its PR agency, for a solution. Together, they conceived a campaign that focused not on the product, but on a way to make women feel beautiful regardless of their age and size.

The following summer, CFRB was brought to the United States and Canada. CRFB aimed not only to increase sales of Dove beauty products, but also targeted women of all ages and shapes. According to the CFRB website, “The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a global effort that is intended to serve as a starting point for societal change and act as a catalyst for widening the definition and discussion of beauty. The campaign supports the Dove mission: to make women feel more beautiful every day by challenging today’s stereotypical view of beauty and inspiring women to take great care of themselves.”

In addition to changing women’s view of their bodies, Dove also aimed to change the beauty market. In an industry where the standard of beauty is often a size two blonde supermodel, Dove distinguished itself by using models that ranged from size six to fourteen. CRFB abandoned the conventional cynical method of portraying “perfect” women as beauty role models.


Dove commissioned The Real Truth About Beauty study as a way to explore what beauty means to women today. StrategyOne, an applied research firm, managed the study in conjunction with Dr. Nancy Etcoff and Massachusetts General Hospital- Harvard University, and with consultation of Dr. Susie Orbach of the London School of Economics. Between February 27, 2004 and March 26, 2004, the global study collected data from 3,200 women, aged 18 to 64. Interviews were conducted across ten countries: the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Italy, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina and Japan.

The study evolved out of a desire to talk to women around the world about female beauty. According to the study, “Dove knows that the relationship women have with beauty is complex: it can be powerful and inspiring, but elusive and frustrating as well. We sponsored this study in order to probe more deeply into this intricate relationship. Dove wanted to understand how women define beauty; how satisfied they are with their beauty; how they feel about female beauty’s portrayal in society; and, how beauty affects their well-being.” This was the first comprehensive study of its kind.

The following statistics are a sampling of results from the study:
• Only 2% of these women describe themselves as “beautiful”

• About 3/4 of them rate their beauty as "average"

• Almost 1/2 of them think their weight is "too high"

The previous findings are particularly the case in the U.S. (60%), Great Britain (57%) and Canada (54%).
• Almost half of all women (48%) strongly agreed (8, 9, or 10 on a 10-point scale) with the statement that: “When I feel less beautiful, I feel worse about myself in general.”

• Just 13% of all women say they are very satisfied with their beauty, 12% with their physical attractiveness, 17% with their facial attractiveness and 13% with their body weight and shape.

• The study revealed that women see beauty and physical attractiveness as increasingly socially mandated and rewarded. Almost two-thirds strongly agreed that: “Women today are expected to be more physically attractive than their mother’s generation was” (63%); and, “Society expects women to enhance their physical attractiveness” (60%).

Larry Koffler, the senior vice president of consumer brands at Edelman, maintained that the research was vital to the campaign: “Without having a foundation in the global research study, which showed that the image of beauty was unattainable, we wouldn’t have had the credibility in creating the materials, in pitching stories and being able to answer some of the folks that didn’t agree with the campaign.”

After the initial study, Dove commissioned two more studies, one in 2005 and one in 2006. The additional information furthered Dove’s research about women’s perceptions of beauty across several cultures.

The later studies revealed the following data:

• 90% of all women 15-64 worldwide want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance (with body weight ranking the highest).

• 67% of all women 15 to 64 withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks (among them things like giving an opinion, going to school, going to the doctor).

• 61% of all women and 69% of girls (15 to 17) feel that their mother has had a positive influence on their feelings about themselves and their beauty.

• 91% feel the media and advertising need to do a better job of representing realistic images of women over 50.

• 97% believe society is less accepting of appearance considerations for women over 50 compared to their younger counterparts, especially when focused on the body.

• Nearly 60% of women believe that if magazines were reflective of a population, a person would likely believe women over 50 do not exist.

• 87% of women believe they are too young to be old.


Target Audience: All women, all ages and of all sizes.


• Increase sales of Dove beauty products and new product lines

• Create dialogue, debate, and discussion about the true meaning of beauty

• Attract national TV and print media coverage

• Gain local press attention in the hometowns of models featured throughout the campaign

• Drive users to the CFRB Web site to share their thoughts and opinions about the campaign and beauty stereotypes

• Create a call to action for consumers to join the movement through website pledge that activate a donation by Dove for self-esteem awareness programs


• Dove launched a global advertising campaign in October 2004 questioning whether “model” attributes, such as youth, slimness, and symmetrical features, are required for beauty - or if they are completely irrelevant to it. The ads each presented an image of a woman whose appearance differed from the stereotypical physical ideal, and asked the reader/viewer to judge the woman's looks by checking off a box.
o “Wrinkled? Wonderful?” featured Irene Sinclair, 95, of London, England with a wrinkled face and asked: “Will society ever accept old can be beautiful?”
o “Gray? Gorgeous?” featured Merlin Glozer, 45, of London, England with a natural mane of gray hair and asks: “Why aren't women glad to be gray?”
o “Oversized? Outstanding?” featured Tabatha Roman, 34, of New York, NY a plus-size woman and asked: “Does true beauty only squeeze into a size 6?”
o “Half empty? Half full?” featured Esther Poyer, 35, of London, England with small breasts and asked: “Does sexiness depend on how full your cups are?”
o “Flawed? Flawless?” featured Leah Sheehan, 22, of London, England with freckles and asked: “Does beauty mean looking like everyone else?”

• Each ad directed readers/viewers to where they could cast their votes.

TV Commercials:
Dove aired many commercials to reach the target audience, including the following:

• Commercial aired during the Super Bowl 2006

• Commercial aired on February 2005 and had its world premiere as part of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice".

• Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (Hong Kong)

• Women can visit and cast their votes on the questions raised in the ad campaign. The website also allows women to partake in ongoing dialogue about beauty by posting to discussion boards, downloading several research studies about beauty, and hearing and reading what women around the world have to say.

• Dove placed mobile billboards in major cities. Each billboard challenged women's notions of beauty by encouraging them to cast their votes online. A featured interactive billboard, located in New York's Times Square highlighted and kept a running tally of the votes submitted for the “Wrinkled? Wonderful?” ad.

Panel discussions:
• The Campaign for Real Beauty launched in New York City on September 29 with a panel discussion about beauty. The kick-off was co-hosted by American Women in Radio and Television®, and featured Dr. Nancy Etcoff of Harvard University; Mindy Herman, former CEO, E! Entertainment Television; Andi Bernstein, Vice President, Special Projects, Oxygen Media and other media and beauty leaders

• Dove furthered the panel discussions on a grassroots level by partnering with the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, a not-for-profit educational organization that provides ethical leadership training and professional development for women, for two special weekend workshops held in Atlanta (October 8-10) and Chicago (November 12-14).

• Interviews with major television shows such as: Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Early Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View and Oprah.

The Dove Self-Esteem Fund:
• Dove established the Dove Self-Esteem Fund to raise awareness among young girls of the link between beauty and body-related self-esteem.
o Dove funds programs that raise self-esteem in girls and young women.
o In the US, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund works through the Unilever Foundation to sponsor uniquely ME!, a partnership program with Girl Scouts of the USA. Uniquely ME! helps girls ages 8-14 build their self-confidence through activities and programs.
o The Fund also supports BodyTalk, an educational program for schools in the United Kingdom and Canada.

• Establishment of the Program for Aesthetics and Well-Being at Harvard University, through a grant from Dove, which will continue to study the way we view women in the media and culture and the effect that this has on women's well-being.

• Creation of a global touring photography exhibit, Beyond Compare, Women Photographers on Beauty, showcasing diverse images of female beauty from 67 female photographers, and showing beauty beyond stereotypes.


Press Coverage
After CFRB was launched, a slew of press was devoted to the ads in the campaign. The campaign was featured and debated across both print and broadcast media. CFRB was featured on national morning shows such as Good Morning America, The Early Show, and The Today Show. Moreover, CFRB was featured on popular talk shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View, Oprah and The Tyra Banks Show. Overwhelmingly, the response of the media applauded the campaign, however CFRB was also criticized. In national and local newspapers and journals, CFRB was written about, debated and the press received responses from the public in the form of letters, online voting, and message boards. Of the 22 articles we found over a time period of 4 years (2004-2007), 17 articles covered CFRB positively, praising the campaign. Only five articles criticized the campaign.

• In the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, John Conroy applauded CFRB, saying “Thank you Dove. No, this isn't an op-ed piece from a ‘real customer’ discussing the benefits of the latest skincare line. I don't even use Dove products. But I am a fan. This is something far more serious, and real. This is about Dove's Campaign for Beauty. When did curvaceousness become the equivalent to chubby or fat?” Conroy went on to explain how body consciousness has become part of everyday life for men in addition to women. Moreover, he commented on how Hollywood starlets have evolved from voluptuous, like Marilyn Monroe, to the waifs of today, like Mischa Barton or Nicole Ritchie.

• PRWeek named CFRB the Consumer Launch if the Year 2006 in the article “Edelman and Unilever-Dove: Campaign for Real Beauty.”

• Barbara Lippert critiqued Dove’s most recent effort for Cream Oil Body Wash in a February 26, 2007 article. “Altogether, I give it three-and-a-half loofahs out of five. I guess it's a testament to how powerful the campaign has been in relaying its message so far.” Lippert was featured on The Early Show, talking about the ad. “…it goes against what everybody did for 50 years, which is make you anxious about how you look and, you know, make you think you need to be better. This is saying ‘You’re good enough.’”

• In the article “Ahead of the Curve” by Tanika White of the Baltimore Sun, White credits CFRB with starting a trend of showing average sized women in the media to change beauty perceptions. “Actress Sara Ramirez introduced the winner of a contest to create the newest Dove ad in a commercial during Sunday's Oscar telecast. On the TV hit Grey's Anatomy, Ramirez portrays Dr. Calliope "Callie" Torres, a full-figured doctor among waifish female interns. The Dove campaign appears to have started a bit of a trend. Other companies have caught on.”

• Dr. Joyce Brothers weighed in on the Dove campaign with an article in Advertising Age. In the article, Dr. Brothers presents a psychologist’s opinion on the boost that women receive from seeing ads like those featured in CFRB. “Dove helps show that we have come a long way when we no longer have to try to look exactly like every other woman who has been declared by some fashion magazine or film czar to be the epitome of beauty.”

• Molly Prior of Women’s Wear Daily called the campaign “gutsy” and chronicled the beginning of CFRB.

• In a January 12, 2007 article in Women’s Wear Daily, Michelle Edgar described the efforts of Dove in introducing Pro-Age Campaign. In the article, Edgar included quotes from the marketing director of Dove, Kathy O’Brien, describing Dove’s mission and describing the success of the campaign thus far.

• USA Today featured CFRB in an article about Dove’s 2006 Superbowl ad. Writer Theresa Howard called the ad “inspirational.”

• The article “Why Dove Ads Are So Controversial” by Susanna Schrobsdorff for Newsweek, described the controversy surrounding reactions to CFRB and wondered “Are the women in the company’s new ad campaign too big to sell beauty products, or have our minds gotten too small?” Schrobsdorff peppered the article with quotes from various sources on both sides of the debate. Furthermore, she argued if it was really the size of the models in CFRB ads or the way the ad was photographed. “While photographer Ian Rankin may have been going for a refreshing, natural look, the unretouched photos turned out to be the equivalent of full-length passport shots of women in what looks like underwear meant for jogging. One has to ask whether even celebrity beauties like Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé Knowles, or Kate Winslet would inspire the same harsh critiques under those less-than-flattering conditions.” The emails that Newsweek received following the article were printed in an online mail call supported CFRB. “Betty from Chattanooga, Tenn., writes: ‘It's high time someone starts promoting healthy women instead of sticks with imperfections airbrushed out. Women who wear sizes 6 to 12 are NOT fat…’ Christine from St. Louis writes: ‘I just read this article and am surprised that anyone would be hostile to Dove's campaign. I think it's about time that companies started embracing the reality of how women in America look.’”

• In the Lansing State Journal, gender columnist Matt Katz questioned why there wasn’t a campaign similar to CFRB intended for men. Citing that men are increasingly more self conscious about their looks, Katz maintained that “women can no longer claim a hold on vanity.”

• Bob Garfield of Advertising Age was swayed over time by CFRB. In a July 25, 2005 article Garfield criticized Dove, calling the campaign self-righteous and hypocritical. The models, he said “…are all still head-turners, with straight white teeth, no visible pores, and not a cell of cellulite…they represent a beauty standard still idealized and, for the overwhelming majority of consumers, still pretty damn unattainable.” In the article, Garfield gave the Dove ads a 2.5 star rating out of 4. In an October 30, 2006 article, Garfield seemed to have changed his mind. “From the beginning, the ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ had the makings of something extraordinary, celebrating a concept of beauty far broader than the anorexic, breast-implanted, tricked-up Barbie doll of the culture’s fantasies.” Garfield praised the viral-video released on the internet entitled “Evolution.” “…They’ve latched on to a powerful idea here and have demonstrated magnificent sensitivity in following it through.” In this review of the CFRB, Garfield gave the ad 4 stars.

• Richard Roeper, of the Chicago-Sun Times and of Ebert-and Roeper fame, included comments in a July 19, 2005 article “How come women can’t get the message: Listen!” In the article, Roeper commented that “Chunky women in their underwear have surrounded my house…I find these Dove ads a little unsettling. If I want to see plump gals baring too much skin, I’ll go to Taste of Chicago, OK? If that makes me sound superficial, shallow and sexist – well yes, I’m a man.” Readers responded by calling Roeper “an idiot,” “a Neanderthal,” and “a sexist loser.” Roeper received such overwhelming angry answers from his readers that he wrote a full article the next week clarifying his comments. Roeper included the comments written to him in response to the article and included a list of “Things I never said” but did not back off of his comments regarding CFRB, saying “I’m sorry if you’re average sized or overweight and it’s made your life more difficult. I’m sorry if you or someone you love had an eating disorder. I’m sorry we don’t live in a world where everyone is judged by what’s on the inside. I’m not sorry for what I wrote.”

• Also in the Chicago-Sun Times, columnist Lucio Guerrero devoted a column to criticizing the campaign, saying “Really the only time I want to see a thigh that big is in a bucket with bread crumbs on it…ads should be about the unrealistic, the ideal or unattainable look, for which so many people strive.” He also called Dove hypocritical, saying “The folks at Dove want us to embrace our ‘real beauty’ and love who we are no matter what we look like. If that’s the case why are they selling firming cream?”

• In response to the articles written by Roeper and Guerrero, author Wendy McClure responded with a piece called “The Fat Between the Ears” which was also featured in the Chicago-Sun Times. McClure blasted her male counterparts calling the criticism heaped on the CFRB models as “crude.” McClure praised CFRB as “an extremely well-calculated promotion for soap and cosmetic products; an effort to challenge unrealistic media images; a controversy.” She also warned that we, as a society, need to pay attention to the negative responses to campaign “as crude as they sound, and as much as we would like to brush them off as ‘part of the controversy’ or ‘typical dumb guy talk.’ Because they’re not just dumb. They’re unreasonable. And why should we have to accept them as typical?” McClure went on to describe how ads in Manhattan and in the UK had been vandalized with spray paint or stickers reading “Fat isn’t Glamorous” and “Who ate all the pies?” and urged readers to avoid dissecting the CFRB models as well as other women portrayed in the media. McClure ended by reminding women that they need not base themselves on the view of men, she writes, “And this isn't about whether men's fantasies are unrealistic or stupid or shallow or shameful. Men are certainly entitled to their preferences. Having preferences is one thing; expecting the world to cater to them is another. Men aren't obligated to consider every woman beautiful, or for that matter, to make every woman feel good about herself. But by the same token, nobody owes you a nice view, guys.”

• In an interview with, Deb Boyda, part of the ad team that put together CFRB, dismissed the criticisms, saying “"We are telling them we want them to take care of themselves, take care of their beauty," she said. "That's very different from sending them the message to look like something they're not." The article went on to interview women who have been touched by the ad: “In Chicago, woman after woman passing by a huge Dove billboard said they think the company has done just that. ‘Most girls don't have that type of body (of a model) and they know they won't get to that,’ said Gaby Hurtado, 22. ‘But seeing this they say, “I can do that.”' Boyda said besides women, dads of daughters also have offered praise for the ads. ‘They can imagine a day when their daughter has to look in the mirror and say, “You know, I have big thighs and I am not beautiful any more.’”

Press Vs. PR Message

In many of the articles written about CFRB, information and statistics on the campaign came directly from Dove, including the Dove Global Study. According to PRweek, the publicity for CFRB generated more than 650 million imprints during the summer of 2005 alone.

Of the 22 articles collected for this project:

• 18 directly discussed some aspect of an ad made by Dove for the CFRB.

• 10 had a direct quote from someone representing Dove or Unilever.

• 17 used some element of a press release to add to their story.

• 7 mentioned the CFRB website

• 6 mentioned the Dove Global Study and/or used statistics from the study.

• 17 articles covered CFRB positively, praising the campaign.

• Only 5 articles criticized the campaign.

Overall, Dove did an excellent job of controlling how their campaign was presented. Media coverage was in line with what was sent out as the message from the organization. In the five articles that criticized the campaign, only one used information from Dove. The other articles were based solely on the opinion of the author.


Commercial Competition
• The winner of a commercial competition for Dove made a guest appearance on “Good Morning America” on February 27, 2007. The 22-year-old creator, Lindsay Miller, stated on national television that doing everyday, silly things when no one is watching is what makes people beautiful. The commercial, one of more than 1,000 entries, featured Miller singing into a pink hairbrush and dancing in the shower. Miller told “Good Morning America” anchor Chris Cuomo that this is what makes people beautiful, not their outer appearance. Miller’s commercial ends with the line, “Cuz what’s better than knowing you’re beautiful, even when no one is looking? That’s real beauty. Love Dove.”

• Accompanying Miller on “Good Morning America” was “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Sara Rameriez who presented the commercial at its debut on Sunday night during the Oscar’s. Rameriez stated that “Beauty comes in many different shapes and many different colors," and goes onto explain that the campaign tells women "you are beautiful just the way you are."

Dove Pro-Age
• According to a global study conducted by Dove, nearly all women over the age of fifty would like to see a change in society’s view on women and aging. Women over the age of fifty also believe that if the media were reflective of the population, a person might not believe that a woman over the age of 50 even exists. To combat these beliefs, Dove is positioning itself as the first global beauty brand to talk to women about aging in a positive tone.

• This is the second phase of the Campaign for Real Beauty and is known as pro-age. Pro-age celebrates women over the age of fifty by challenging the idea that only the young are beautiful.

• The initiative has materialized into a global communications campaign featuring images of real women who reveal their grey hair, age spots and curves to uncover the fact that women are beautiful at any age.

• Dove has also introduced a first-of-its kind pro-age product line designed specifically to meet the needs that older women may experience in relation to their skin and hair. The packaging of the products features a larger font size and highlights active ingredients that will help maturing hair and skin.

• This phase of the campaign was born out of the fact that women over the age of fifty are under-represented in society.

• According to Dove’s recent study, “Beauty Comes of Age,” 87% of the women surveyed believed that they were too young to be old, and 91% believed that the media needs “to do a better job of representing realistic images of women over the age of 50.”

Thinness in Models
• Janice Min, editor of US Weekly, is quoted in an Associated Press article on February 5, as saying, “It amazes me, the whole world has shrunk.” She then goes on to say, “For once, an establishment has set forth that there is something wrong with this. Things may not change completely, but women may look and say, ‘maybe there’s something wrong with THEM, and not me.” This is the message of Dove, who launched the Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004 after a study found that only 2 percent of women worldwide described themselves as beautiful.

• In the article it was almost as though Dove were being portrayed as an expert, an “establishment” that has set forth to make a change in how women view their bodies and themselves.

While the exact current information about CFRB has not yet been determined because the campaign is ongoing, here is some of the information that was evaluated after the initial launch:

• In the summer of 2005, the Dove campaign received nearly four hours of broadcast time, including more than 10 minutes on The Today Show. On that day alone, more than 60,000 people visited the CFRB Web site.

• During the summer of 2005, the campaign also secured coverage from 62 national television programs, securing more than four hours of broadcast time, including: The View, Good Morning America, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, Oprah, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Early Show and The Jane Pauly Show.

• CFRB also received feature coverage in high-profile print outlets, landing the cover of People magazine. Coverage included USA Today, The New York Times Magazine and Allure. The campaign received more than 1,000 placements in print, Web, television and radio, far exceeding expectations.

• The campaign generated more than 650 million impressions during the summer of 2005.

• According to Dove, sales for the products featured in the ads increased 600 percent in the first two months of the campaign.

• As of June 2005, more than 1 million visitors had logged onto and shared their thoughts about the campaign.

• Awards
 PR Week’s Consumer Launch Campaign of the Year 2006
 PRSA’s Silver Anvil ‘Best of’ Award 2006
 Grand EFFIE Award 2006

Dr. Colleen Connolly-Ahern is an assistant professor at The Pennsylvania State University in the advertising/ public relations department of the College of Communications. She received her Ph.D. and Master’s degrees from the University of Florida. Her classroom experience includes teaching courses in advertising campaigns, advertising sales, international advertising and public relations. Before returning to the academic world, her professional background included experience as president of her own marketing communications firm, promotion manager for USA Today and managing editor for Marine Log Magazine. Through an e-mail interview, Dr. Connolly-Ahern provided her insight regarding CFRB.
“The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has been a winner for Unilever,” Dr. Connolly-Ahern began. She went on to explain how credit should be given to Unilever for their success, “You have to give the company a lot of credit for being able to sell beauty products with the idea that a woman is already perfect the way she is, without seeming false doing it. Their messaging has been on target for their audience. They've tried to create some PR tie-ins with girls and body image. I applaud the effort.”

Dr. Connolly-Ahern has been exposed to CFRB through the classroom, as her many of her students have chosen to do focus groups regarding CFRB as part of their research for class projects. Students have found that “women seem to love the campaign.”

While Dr. Connolly-Ahern applauds the effort, for her personally, the campaign “rings pretty hollow.” She cites the fact that Unilever, the company that owns Dove, is also the maker of Axe body spray, whose campaign focuses on beautiful, scantily-clad women flocking to men who wear Axe. “If the company really cared about female body image issues, they wouldn't try to sell smelly aftershave by objectifying -- and sometimes vilifying -- women.”

She finished by saying, “Bottom line -- for the average consumer, I think Unilever has done a good job aligning its brand with the cause of celebrating everyday womanhood. But as an active consumer of corporate messaging, I think the corporation shows no real commitment to the issue of enhancing women's self-perceptions.”


Other companies attempted to capitalize on the success of CRFB. Nike attempted to mimic the campaign with advertisements such as “Big Butt” and “Thunder Thighs.” The copy for “Big Butt” reads, "My butt is big and round like the letter C and ten thousand lunges have made it rounder but not smaller and that's just fine. It's a space heater for my side of the bed. It's my ambassador to those who walk behind me... those who might scorn it are invited to kiss it. Just do it". Nike’s campaign did not fare as well and didn’t receive nearly the amount of attention as the CFRB did. Nike was seen as “jumping on the bandwagon” of CFRB’s success, but the campaign never caught on after the initial launch. Critics of the Nike ads maintained that the body parts of the women featured in the advertisements looked toned and athletic, clearly not the body parts of an every-day woman. We do not feel Nike struck the same chord as CFRB did with its core audience; therefore, it was not nearly as successful.

The PR/ marketing industry can pick up a few pointers from Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty. Dove effectively reached their target audience through their tactics and programming. As a result of their intensive research, which included surveying women across the world of different cultures, Dove was able to understand the feelings at the core of their audience. They connected on an emotional and personal level with women of many nationalities, races, beliefs, sizes and ages.

Dove had their finger on the pulse of their consumers. They entered the market at the perfect moment; women were tired of being made to feel less than beautiful in order for a company to sell their beauty products. Dove became the trendsetter, innovator and a breath of fresh air in the beauty industry. Dove challenged the industry to see women as they really are: beautiful in their own unique way. The Campaign for Real Beauty shattered the stereotype of the size zero, blonde, perfect model. CFRB made a splash; it did not enter the market quietly. Commercials, billboards and magazine ads soon had the media and households across the United States buzzing.

While we do believe that the campaign is an important first step to change the way our culture objectifies women, the campaign does have its flaws. After viewing the women in the advertisements and reading some of the criticisms of the campaign, we realized that the women chosen were still extraordinarily beautiful and would be considered above average compared to an every-day woman. The women had desirable features such as creamy smooth skin, straight white teeth and accentuated features. For example, in the Pro-Age segment of the campaign, several of the women chosen for the ads naturally looked to be younger than the target age of sixty. Furthermore, we found it contradictory that the campaign expressed the desire for society to alter their perceptions of beauty standards all the while trying to sell women products to enhance their beauty. We also agree with Dr. Connolly-Ahern’s assessment that Unilever cheapens CFRB with their hypocrisy. While making money off of women who buy into CFRB, they are at the same time making money by perpetuating the stereotype of the perfect “hot girl” in their Axe advertisements.


From Dove:
Dove global study:

Outside information:


Press Releases:§ion=news&target=press&src=InTheNews_proage§ion=news&target=press§ion=news,+07:00+AM


Introduction and Problem Statement

Unilever, with annual revenues of approximately $50 billion and a staff of 250,000, ranks among the world’s largest companies in consumer products. One of its most famous labels is the personal care brand Dove. In an attempt to reposition the brand and rid it from its “conservative” image, in 2004, Dove launched its radically new “Campaign for Real Beauty”. In-house consumer research had revealed major insecurities among women concerning their physical appearance. Hardly any female considered herself to keep up with the standards depicted in regular beauty advertising.

Based on these findings, Dove redefined beauty in a way that had been ignored by other players before. Targeting women aged 30 to 39, the campaign’s purpose was to show real female beauty, reflected in different shapes, sizes and ages. The core message was “No models – but firm curves.” The campaign received enormous attention; sales of Dove-branded products nearly quadrupled and market share increased significantly in various core markets. (for further information please refer to 5.1).

Nevertheless, after this great success and image shift, Dove’s major brand management challenge for the upcoming year is how to continue the promotional campaign.

The problem can thus be formulated a follows:
What should Dove do to prepare for the re-launch of Dove beauty products to the next level and successfully keeping this competitive advantage for global use over time?

1. Alternative A: Reap the benefits of brand awareness
One possibility for Dove is to seize the opportunity of high brand awareness to extend the brand and enter new target markets while largely continuing with the women’s marketing mix. A beauty care line for middle-aged men would be introduced, as this segment is not well explored by competitors yet and, age-wise, goes in line with the current female target. Products would connect the moisturizing and mild benefit with attributes like “energetic” and “self confident”. Regarding advertisement, this would be communicated using “normal, average” males and thus stay with the “Real Beauty” paradigm. However, it is assumed that men are less prone to be self-conscious about their looks. Therefore, perceptions would be assessed in further studies and advertising messages focused on the issues regarded as most critical.

2. Alternative B: Continue to evolve
With the current success of the campaign, it might also be reasonable not to introduce significant changes. The idea would thus be to simply extend the brand communication and promotion for two aspects: To give consumers some new insights and keep them excited, advertisements would not merely depict happy, normal women. They would now also include storytelling, showing how average women’s self-confidence helps them in different situations (such as job interviews or dates). Additionally, Dove products would be featured more prominently in these advertisements. Their connection to “Real Beauty” and self-esteem would be communicated more clearly by showing the women use Dove products prior to making a self-confident experience.

3. Alternative C: It’s all in the product
Seeing how the prevalent image in the beauty industry is still one of perfection, Dove might be well-advised to provide for the possibility that identifying with “imperfect” women loses its appeal to the customer base. Without returning to classic beauty models, the brand could hence decide on detaching the products from body images altogether. The self-esteem topic would still be key, but the main focus lies on the product. For example, women would no longer be shown in campaigns, but merely close-ups of skin and the products – packaging as well as ingredients – themselves.

4. How easy is it for competitors to imitate the strategy? With Dove’s focus on “Real beauty” seeing such great success, it is likely for competitors to try and get their piece of the cake by imitating Dove’s strategy. When utilizing a more product-focused strategy, communication will rather be on brand attributes than on the brand image that has successfully been established. As attributes are easier to copy and, consequently, convey, alternative C runs at a respectively higher risk of being imitated. For alternative A, as there will be a new target group to win over, competition is likely to be dangerous from beauty brands that already enjoy a high standing among the relevant consumers (e.g. Gillette). Alternative B builds the most on the current communication strategy, where Dove is well-established and simply needs to keep consumers interested in order to reap its “first-mover” benefits.

5. In how far are current brand associations held up?
As Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign was exclusively focused on women, it might be hard to stretch the brand associations to fit the new consumer segment targeted by the portfolio extension (i.e. men). As a consequence, prospective customers could experience difficulty identifying with the brand, whereas current customers could perceive brand values as somewhat diluted by the new attributes. Alternative B will clearly remain the most consistent with the current image; alternative C, on the other hand, runs at a risk of not diluting but rather reducing the brand image by taking away its “human” dimension. On top of this goes the fact that it is harder to convey brand values when they are not placed in a reference frame (e.g. that of curvy women enjoying themselves). While the core message and self-esteem concern will still be pursued, losing the edge of directly opposing competitive cliché images might harm the brand’s credibility.

6. Will consumers in the long run withstand the attraction of idealized advertising? Although the move away from idealized models has brought Dove high brand awareness and appealed to many women, it is questionable whether consumers will not fall back into their “learned” habits of trying to become more perfect. The consequence would be that they are again attracted by competitors. As explained above, alternative C would somewhat prepare for that backward shift. Alternative A, with going into a new target, still has some room for maneuver to introduce slight changes back towards higher idealization. Alternative B, however, is completely tied to alternative beauty models and thus most exposed to the risk of backward-changing consumer preferences.

The brand management faces a constrained budget, which makes conducting a combination of these alternatives unfeasible, at least in the short and medium run. The task is hence to select the one most promising alternative.

Addressing the issue of sustaining a unique positioning first, it is clear that alternative C provides the least protection against copycat behavior of competitors as it even partly abandons the original concept and thus leaves more space for the rivals to also associate their brands with attributes such as genuineness or sincerity. Similarly, alternative A opens a window for imitation even though it is, arguably, not likely to happen, as the market for men’s personal care is not as profitable as to allow rivals to simply establish themselves as followers in this way. Under alternative B, Dove further elaborates on its positioning which is deeply ingrained in the minds of customers, thus rendering imitation by competitors especially hard and therefore unlikely.

As already mentioned, the question of compatibility of the current brand with men’s mindset is questionable. Even though, option A does not have to necessarily alienate the current target group, provided the advertising message is adapted seamlessly and promotes the idea that real beauty comes regardless of sex as it comes regardless of age, ethnicity or shape. Alternative B stays close to the message and does not pose a threat in this regard. Alternative C, however, moves away from the concept, producing incongruity within the brand image. This fact, together with the previous issue, makes alternative C seriously undermine the strategy that Dove has been following and we hence drop it from subsequent discussion.

Regarding the risk that people regress to their old habits of following an idealized concept of beauty, alternative B fares better than alternative A. While not reverting to the standard approach to fashion advertising, the storytelling technique expands the consumers’ understanding of the issues and leads them to process the brand’s benefits more consciously. This should, in turn, inhibit the customers’ inclination towards idealized images in advertising. In this regard, Dove might be worse off under alternative A, as a positioning for two partly distinct target groups can reduce the degree to which each of them associates themselves with the brand.

Also alternative B is a mere evolution of the current campaign. From an economic point of view, the fact that the target segment remains the same, the future returns are severely limited. Albeit option A is associated with a higher risk, it has to be concluded that a successful implementation would also enable Dove to unlock a whole new market, making this choice more appealing.

The final decision between the two options is difficult. While being somewhat weaker on the side of economic potential, alternative B ultimately outperforms alternative A in regard to other issues. Higher revenues can still be made by expanding geographically, while the image needs to be adapted to fully resonate with the customers. Yet, these alternatives are mutually exclusive only to the extent of the disposable funds. Alternative A might hence very well be the logical extension of Dove’s efforts and the natural next step for a “phase 3” of its brand relaunch.

Additionally, several other factors should be taken into account, such as a possible conflict with other Unilever brands, such as Axe/Lynx. These inconsistencies should be countered with a clear positioning in non-overlapping segments and appropriate PR measures. Also the global dimension of the decision should be kept in mind and the campaign continuously adapted to local circumstances in order to display a high level of fidelity, which is completely crucial if the brand is to sustain its image. Provided Dove manages to avoid pitfalls as these, the brand is best off by evolving its brand communication to further curb female insecurities about themselves while strengthening the link between the image the brand evokes and the products. (For further detail pleas refer to 5).


7. The company and campaign
Dove was originally developed in the United States as a non-irritating skin cleaner for pre-treatment use on burns and wounds during WWII. Nowadays, Dove products are available in more than 35 countries, generating revenues of $3 billion. The Dove product line includes body washes, beauty bars, deodorants, hair and facial care products and lotions. Before Dove set up the marketing strategy, they wanted to understand the relationship of women to beauty, without a special focus on any beauty care products. Therefore the company charged a global research firm, StrategyOne to conduct a research study. Hence, StrategyOne surveyed 3,200 women from around the world. The result of the survey showed a wide disparity between the ideal of beauty pictured in the media and the perception by women themselves. Based on this report, the company redefined beauty in a way that all competitors have ignored. To launch a new campaign Dove used a new and unconventional ideal of beauty, thus they differ significantly from their main competitors.

To strengthen the emotional ties to Dove’s target group, the brand and not the single products should be in the foreground. The campaign was launched to increase also revenues and to re-brand Dove. Therefore the advertising budget approximately accounted for $ 27 million in Europe alone. The “Campaign for Real Beauty” began in September 2004, when a website for beauty debates was established. The main target group was 30- to 30-year-old women who could identify with the new brand mission statement “to make more women feel beautiful every day, by widening today’s stereotypical view of beauty and inspiring women to take great care of themselves”. To transmit the core message Dove’s ads contained no models, but firm curves.

The promotion also showed a group of women of different ages, shapes and racial backgrounds that were just having a good time in bras and knickers. Therefore the models were chosen in a “street casting” to achieve a great acceptance among the observers. Traditional television and magazine advertising was supported by outdoor ads, such as billboards, posters and signs. The results were dramatic, because the advertisement gained a massive media coverage. The brand had a sophisticated image shift and is now described by adjectives like “open”, “active” and “self-confident”. The turnaround was really striking. [1]

2. PEST Analysis
Figure 7: PEST Analysis

Political factors:
As Unilever and therefore also Dove are globally acting brands, there are several political and legal factors that could influence the performance of the company. For example the political stability in different countries is not as stable as in Europe. Therefore a quick change in laws can occur, like the employment laws, health and safety laws, consumer laws etc. It is also possible that new import tariffs are introduced. Hence, regarding those changes the costs for Dove could increase and the demand for the products could be reduced.

Economic factors:
Economic factors can have major impact on business and future decisions. Those factors include an economic downturn, volatile exchange rates and inflation rates in the operating countries. It is possible that Dove has to increase prices due to different circumstances like increased ingredients price and therefore the demand for the products could decrease.

Social factors:
Social factors as lifestyle and cultural values vary from region to region. As Dove launched the unique campaign they have to be careful that they adapt it to the different cultural environments and lifestyles around the globe. But also brands have a great impact on peoples’ lifestyle and can change it.

Technological factors:
Technology is also necessary for Dove’s success and competitive advantage. This includes for example research and development activities and information technologies (with their interactive website). To maintain the competitive advantage being a moisturizing product, Dove has to rely on the technological progress and has to be a first mover.

3. Porter’s five forces

Figure 8: Porter’s five forces

Threat of new entrants:
As Dove had great success with their “real beauty campaign” there is a potential risk for new entrants. But Dove is one of the best brands over the world and competitors have to face that. They have an outstanding marketing strategy and high quality products. But barriers to enter the market are low threat of new entrants can therefore be rated as medium.

Bargaining power of suppliers:
Dove is a sub-brand of Unilever that as lots of suppliers over the world. Therefore Unilever as the parent company has power to influence the suppliers and switch them easily. So Dove has also a sort of pressure on their suppliers and can cut down prices and establish tight relationships with suppliers. Hence, bargaining power of suppliers is low.

Bargaining power of buyers:
As there are many competitors within the industry, Dove’s customers can easily switch to another label. But the Dove brand stands for high-quality products and promotes real beauty in their campaigns so they rely on loyal consumers. However, you cannot only trust in the sustainability of the campaign in the long run, the bargaining power of buyer has to be rated high.

Competitive rivalry within the industry:
The main competitors of Unilever are Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, because their sub-brands are quite similar to Dove. In the beauty industry there is verly little product differentiation and similar product offerings, as well as little trade secrets. This leaves little room for competitive advantage, but Dove has always remained at number one, because of their loyal consumers and their moisturizing skin quality products. However, it is easily to switch to other high-end products and also to private label brands, therefore competitive rivalry is high in the operated industry.

Threat of substitute products:
There is a treat of replacing Dove products by competitors’ products, but people will always need toiletries and therefore cannot easily substitute the line. They can only switch within the existing industry, but as people love Dove and their campaign there is just medium threat of its replacement with present products.

9. Alternative/Issue weight

|Issues |Alternative A |Alternative B |Alternative C | |Threat of
imitation 50 % |- |+ |- | |Brand consistency 30 % |~ |+ |- | |Ideals 20 % |~ |- |+ |

Table 2: Alternative/Issue Weight

As you can see from the alternative/issue weight table above, the threat of imitation is the most serious one. As only alternative B is to be forearmed against this risk it is the most desirable one. Also in line with brand consistency alternative B scores highest, followed by alternative A that would try to win over a new target group, but with the same values. Alternative C is the most promising one if it comes to society’s ideals. As markers want to sell hope, this alternative would fight against the society’s upcoming doubts about “average, normal” models. All in all, you can see that alternative B is due to our table the most promising one.


• Hips feel good” – Dove’s campaign for real beauty, Richard Ivey School of Business, Northeastern University, College of Business Administration, Canada, 2009 ———————–
[1] Adapted from “Hips feel good” – Dove’s campaign for real beauty, Richard Ivey School of Business, 2009, p. 3ff

Figure 1: Unilever logo, source:

Figure 2: Dove logo, source:,

Figure 3: Hips feel good, source:

Figure 4: The campaign, source:

Figure 6: The campaign, source:

Figure 5: The campaign, source: